I’m going to wrap up Ghost Week and my Spooktober Spooktacular with a few ghost-related video games… starting with Fatal Frame. You can pick this game up for PS2 or Xbox, or get it on PS3 digitally. Note: the game was titled Zero in Japan, and Project Zero in Europe. This is one of those rare times where I like the localized American name more, not that it really matters.
This is a great survival horror title that utilizes a premise that works perfectly for the genre. In this game you play as Miku (not that Miku), who is searching for her brother in a haunted Japanese mansion filled to the brim with ghosts. She has an antique camera that she must use to take pictures of the ghosts in order to banish them.
But here’s the kicker: the power of your camera’s anti-ghost flash has to be built up in order to do much damage (the ghosts have health bars). So as soon as a ghost shows up, you’ve got to run away, get you camera on (bringing up a 1st-person view), and hope the ghost will hold that pose for as long as possible–and not move off-center when you finally take the picture. A well-timed shot when the viewfinder flashes color will give you a much-needed boost in the camera’s power.
The camera-themed ghost-busting is a gameplay mechanism that takes practice to get decent at, and the game provides plenty of challenge in the form of a wide variety of ghosts. Each type of ghost has its own movement pattern, and many of them can fade in and out or even teleport to a new location, making it extra-difficult to take a good picture. Later on in the game you will also face ghosts that can attack from a distance in some manner, and at times even have multiple ghosts at once to deal with. And when you have limited rolls of film at you disposal–and more significantly, limited health items to recover with–Fatal Frame turns out to be a pretty difficult game. I had to restart the whole game twice before I was able to really get the hang of everything, and had to be really stingy about my health items. The various bosses are the biggest challenges, and as such make the game feel all the more intense.
Fatal Frame is one of the best titles you’ll find in terms of horror. The ghosts have a variety of creepy designs, and the way they can show up anywhere from out of nowhere really keeps you on edge. And because you want to deal as much damage as you can with your camera, the game is very much encouraging you to allow the ghosts to lunge at you as close as possible before you make your defensive attack. And then–the ghost probably isn’t completely banished yet, and is still right there. You have to always be on your toes, and you have to accept letting these ghosts get right in your face.
The PS2 was probably the golden age of survival horror games, at least for consoles. There are still a lot of titles I need to look into, including Fatal Frame’s sequels. (I own the second, but have not gotten around to it yet.) If you are into the genre at all though, be sure to look into the original Fatal Frame. It tells an interesting story, has that sense of satisfaction for defeating its challenging enemies, and is as atmospheric as it gets for that era of gaming.